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Sundayindependent

Can yon afford next generation TV?

You could save up to 81,000 a year on TV by not falling for the bells and whistles, writes Louise McBride

NEXT generation TV — which allows you to pause, rewind and record TV — has transformed the way we watch the box. However, as a TV-only package could cost as much as €1,100 in the first year of signing up, it can be expensive.

Yes, next generation TV gives you more control over your telly — including how and when you watch it. It is making the traditional TV set redundant for some — as more people watch live television, movies and programmes on their laptops, tablets and mobile phones.  

However, unless you’re a TV addict of the highest degree, there are a lot of features in next generation TV packages which you won’t have the remotest chance of ever using.

One of the latest products to hit the market — Sky’s Sky Q — allows a family to watch different TV programmes at the same time on five tellies or screens around the home — while also recording four other channels. Some TV packages — including Virgin Media’s Horizon TV and Sky’s Sky Q Silver — allow you to record four TV shows while watching a fifth one live.

“You’d have to be a serial soap opera watcher to need something like that,” said Simon Moynihan of bonkers.ie.

Of course, there are many nice features with next-generation TV. You may be able to download TV programmes on to your tablet to watch outside the home for example. This is one of the features included in Sky Q — and Sky says it is the most requested item from its customers.

One of the biggest selling points of Sky Q is fluid viewing where you can pause a show in one room and resume it on another TV screen or tablet — from the exact point you left it. Sky Q also has a touchpad remote control which beeps when you lose it — once you press a button on the set top box. But all this comes at a price.

Premium prices

Sky Q is a premium TV product — and its price reflects that. There are two Sky Q products — Sky Q and Sky Q Silver. The top product, Sky Q Silver, costs €804 a year — plus the initial set-up costs.

Furthermore, as set-up costs are as high as €299, the total cost of Sky Q Silver in the first year could be as much as €1,100. Set-up costs for Sky Qare f 99 for those who have Sky Broadband, Sky Sports or Sky Movies — but even this is high when you consider that there are no set-up costs with many other TV packages.

Sky Q costs €660 a year, with set-up costs at between €99 and €249. Furthermore, while installation of Sky Q is free for new customers, existing Sky customers must pay a €50 installation fee.

As Sky Q is only a standalone TV package, you only get a TV service with it — yet, it still works out more expensive than many of the broadband, TV and phone bundles out there.

“Sky Q does things that a lot of the other TV products don’t do,” said Mr Moynihan. “Rather than having to rewire each room for TV, the main Sky Qbox acts as a wireless transmitter in the home.”

Existing Sky customers can upgrade to Sky Q even if they are in the middle of a contract for another Sky TV package — without being hit with a contract breakage fee for doing so. “Their current TV contract will end and they will start a new contract on Sky Q with no cancellation fees or charges,” said a spokesman for Sky.

TV packages

Along with Sky, all of the other pay-TV providers offer some form of on-demand television. Virgin Media, eir and Vodafone’s recently launched TV services all offer on-demand content as part of their TV packages.

At €280 for the first year, Virgin Media’s ‘Horizon TV is one of the cheapest standalone television packages out there. The on-demand content included in this package includes that from RTE Player, 3 Player and TG4 player.

With Vodafone TV’s bundles, you get the choice between six months of free Netflix, free Setanta Sports or free multi-room viewing.

The cheapest on-demand TV

A standalone TV package from a payTV provider can cost up to €800 a year (before setup costs) — while a topofthe-range TV, broadband and phone bundle can cost up to €1,000 a year. These packages include a lot more than just on-demand TV. You don’t have to spend this kind of money however, if the only thing you’re after is on-demand TV.

One of the cheapest ways to get on-demand TV is simply to watch it on your laptop, iPad or phone through a streaming service (where video or audio content is sent in compressed form over the internet and played immediately). All you need is reliable (and reasonably priced) broadband.

You could save several hundred euro to a grand a year by doing this instead of paying for a digital TV subscription or bundle.

On-demand content watched through the likes of RTE Player and 3Player is free. With 3Player, you can watch a range of programmes after they are broadcast on TV3 and 3e. RTE Player works the same way — but for RTE1 and RTE2. With 3Player, most programmes are available to view for 30 days after broadcast — but some content may only be available for seven days.

With RTE Player, most programmes are available for up to 21 days — with some, particularly the soaps, only available for seven days.

Aertv Plus is an online TV subscription package where you can watch live TV over the internet — on your phone, tablet, personal computer or smart TV. You can access 19 channels through Aertv Plus including BBC One, BBC 2 and the Irish channels. A subscription costs €5.99 a month and as you get the first month free, the first year will cost you about €66. There is no minimum contract so you can cancel anytime. 

For movies and box sets, Netflix works out cheaper than signing up to a pay-TV subscription that includes such content. A standard subscription to Netflix costs €9.99 a month. As the first month is free, the cost for the first year is €110. You can cancel your subscription at any time.

Netflix’s main competitor is Amazon Prime but this streaming service is not available in Ireland.

Saorview

One of the cheapest ways to watch on-demand TV will come later this year when Saorview offers Saorview Connect. This product will be an extension of the Saorview service — so there will be no monthly bills and no contract.

Saorview Connect will offer on-demand and catch-up TV as well as the ability to remote record programmes from wherever you are.

The beauty of Saorview is that once you have paid for your equipment and any other set-up costs, your TV service will be free from then on — as there are no monthly subscriptions. You will have to buy a Saorview Connect box to get the new product. It is unclear as yet exactly how much that box will cost.

“The manufacturers have not confirmed box pricing but there will be a range of boxes and so the pricing will vary,” said a spokeswoman for Saorview.

It is unclear too how compelling the on-demand content to be provided through Saorview Connect will be. The TV programmes and movies available may well pale in comparison to those being offered by the likes of Sky and Virgin Media.

A spokeswoman for Saorview would not divulge details of the content line-up for Saorview Connect, apart from saying that it will have a number of catch-up TV players and on-demand services.

“Users will be able to access these if they connect their Saorview Connect box to their broadband service,” she said. “Some of the on-demand content providers may offer paid-for content, but this will be optional.”

You may already be able to get on-demand TV if you are a Saorview customer who has a Saorview-approved smart TV — as long as your set is connected to broadband. In such cases, your content is coming from the manufacturer of the TV — rather than Saorview.

Even if you have no interest in ondemand TV, ditching a digital TV subscription and signing up to Saorview instead could save you several hundred euro a year on your TV in the long run.

Consider a combi box if you find the choice of Saorview channels too restrictive. Combi boxes combine Saorview and satellite TV in one package with one remote. They include more than 100 channels (including RTE, BBC and a range of satellite channels).

A Saorview-approved combi box could cost you between €100 and €150 — and you will also have to connect it to an aerial. So if you haven’t got an aerial already, you must pay to get one installed. After that however, the service is free. But be sure to only make the move to Saorview if you can survive without movie and sports TV packages.

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